Tuesday, 9 January 2024, 13:54
The Eco Reserva wildlife park in Ojén will not be shut down but run by a different company, the regional Junta de Andalucía has confirmed to SUR this week.
The park, closed to the public since 2022, has been in the middle of a conflict between the regional environment department and the concession-holder Andalucía Ecotour S. L. which has fulled speculation about the future of the animals living there.
"The Eco Reserva will stay open with full guarantees through another company," said Junta sources.
"At no point are we going to remove the animals and by no means will we allow hunting activity, which was stopped 33 years ago, to resume. The aim of the regional administration is precisely to guarantee the safety and welfare of the wildlife as well as the health and safety of visitors," said the sources.
The regional authority said that the service would be put out to tender and "there are already firms interested" in taking over the park. It stressed that "both the care and the feeding of the animals is currently in the hands of Junta de Andalucía employees".
The Ojén Eco Reserva is located on public mountain terrain and the concession for its use was awarded in May 2016, with a number of conditions imposed by the regional authority that had to be complied with.
In August 2020, after carrying out several inspections, the Junta detected up to 15 cases in which the concession-holder "repeatedly failed to comply with the regulations that zoological parks in Andalucía are subjected to".
According to the environment department, there was a safety risk, due to the lack of enclosures to separate the wild animals, which include deer, wild sheep and mountain goats, from staff and visitors. Furthermore, much of the infrastructure was built and designed by the management itself and the Junta could not approve it.
The welfare of the animals was also at risk due to the lack of health controls. There were also irregularities related to the management of dangerous waste, works without permission and a lack of electricity and water supply, among others, according to the Junta.
After several requests to correct the faults, in February 2022 disciplinary proceedings were initiated and the park was closed to the public.
The case reached a Malaga administrative court and the concession was revoked in February 2023. In November last year the representative of the firm was ordered to leave the site, where, according to Junta sources, he was "squatting" in one of the Eco Reserva's huts without electricity or water.
The manager of Andalucía Ecotour S.L, Antonio Calvo, told SUR some months ago that a number of organisations had helped with the upkeep of the animals during the time the park has been closed to the public with no income. The biggest help comes from El Corte Inglés which delivers a pallet of fresh fruit and vegetables every day from its supermarket. "The Junta considers the plastic and cardboard packaging this food comes in to be dangerous waste," he said. Calvo disposes of this waste in ordinary refuse containers, whereas the Junta states that it cannot be left there and must be processed properly.
The Junta denies Calvo's version and stated that "the animals are being fed and cared for by the regional authority".
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